Dance funds 'lost' to sociology

June 27, 2003

A prominent dance academic has accused sociologists and anthropologists of creaming off research funding in his discipline, making it harder for "true artists" to find grants.

In a paper presented to the Standing Conference on Dance in Higher Education, Gregory Sporton, head of performance and moving image at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and former head of research and graduate studies at the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance, calls academics from the human sciences who apply for dance research money "parasitical" and says they should restrict applications to funding bodies dealing with their own discipline.

In an interview with The THES, Dr Sporton said there was a growing perception in dance departments that practice-based research stood little chance of being funded.

He said: "There is a sense that dance research has two problems: one is a process where the methodology of the human sciences is applied to dance and presented as if it is all there is to know about dance; the other is a tendency to see dance practice as an intellectual process only by other means."

Institutions and dance departments had begun to claim that sociologists and anthropologists working in dance were practitioners and artists themselves to justify their research, he said.

"I would rather they competed with other sociologists and anthropologists for their research funding. But instead they apply for dance funding because they think it is a soft touch, and they drain money away from other people working in dance practice," he said.

Andree Grau, reader in dance at the University of Surrey Roehampton and an anthropologist, said Dr Sporton's comments were "unfair".

Alexandra Carter, reader in dance studies at Middlesex University and a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Board research panel, said:

"Dance is a discipline that welcomes interaction with other disciplines.

Any applications we get for research funding are from dance people who are collaborating with experts in other fields or who are genuinely multidisciplinary themselves. I do not think we should be suspicious of that."

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